Faces in Business: Mike Welbes

May 22, 2024

Tell us about your field and what attracted you to it.

I was drawn to public accounting because it offers the chance to engage with a diverse range of businesses. What excites me most is the dynamic nature of the work. Each day presents new challenges and opportunities to learn. Interacting directly with entrepreneurs and business owners has been incredibly fulfilling throughout my career.

How has your field changed in the time you’ve worked in it? How have you adapted?

Over the course of my career, I’ve witnessed a significant transformation in the accounting field largely driven by technological advancements and automation. At Honkamp, we’ve been proactive in embracing these changes by investing in new technologies. This approach has enabled us to adapt and evolve, constantly exploring innovative solutions to meet our clients’ growing needs.

Is there a person or people who have had a tremendous impact on you?

Many of the original partners at Honkamp, including the past managing partners, Arnie Honkamp and Greg Burbach, have had a tremendous impact on me. Being around individuals that have such an entrepreneurial spirit is infectious. Additionally, I’ve been deeply influenced by the countless business owners I’ve had the privilege to work with. Observing their decision-making processes and witnessing how businesses succeed has been a continuous source of education and enjoyment for me throughout my career in public accounting.

Do you have any advice for young people and/or new graduates?

I always enjoy seeing new graduates start at Honkamp. It’s refreshing to see their enthusiasm, passion and ambition as they embark on their careers with big dreams. My advice to them: Hold on to that initial drive and enthusiasm as you progress in your career. It will serve you well in the long run.

Is there a story or an anecdote that illustrates your philosophy either in life or in your chosen field?

I believe our experiences build our philosophies. Personally, it’s about commitment and giving things time to unfold. I’ve stuck with one career at one company, and it has been good for me. So, my advice? Stay committed and be patient; good things take time.

What have you found to be the most valuable resource for learning? Are you an on-the-job learner or do you prefer another way?

Learning in various ways is important. I find I do better as an on-the-job learner, gaining knowledge through real-life experiences. While I believe a combination of approaches can benefit everyone, learning from life experiences has proven to be most effective for me. Whether it’s discovering what works or learning from mistakes, these real-world lessons seem to stick with me and help make future decisions.

Math vs. creativity. People person vs. introvert. Slow and steady vs. quick and nimble. Where do you fall on those divides? Do you believe there even is a divide?

I believe striking a good balance is key across all these aspects. It’s about being able to connect with people, understanding their situations and using some creativity, along with a few math skills, to come up with solutions. As for the whole introvert vs. people person debate, I’d say I’m a bit of both — I enjoy my family time but spend plenty of time in a social setting. When it comes to pace, I think there’s value in making a decision and moving forward. It’s all about finding a balance. At the end of the day, dealing with people in business or personally requires a good mix of these qualities.

When you think of the future, what kind of changes would you like to see in your field? In the broader world?

As I look ahead in the accounting world, it’s clear that AI and technology will play a big role in shaping our profession. However, in a service industry, and honestly in most industries, customer service can be the difference. No matter how advanced our tech gets, that personal touch is what sets us apart. We need technology to streamline processes, but we can’t forget the importance of that human connection in the services we provide.

How has your professional life helped you grow as a person?

I’ve had the privilege of connecting with a lot of people. These relationships have enriched not just my professional life, but also my personal life. Many of my best friends are people I have met through work. I’m grateful for the relationships formed through my career at Honkamp, as they continue to positively impact my life. Ultimately, my personal growth has been intertwined with my professional experiences, and I consider myself fortunate to have met so many people.

How do you strike a work-life balance?

Finding that work-life balance has not been a problem. I genuinely enjoy what I do. I think work-life balance has a lot to do with family support and my wife, Carrie, has always been supportive of my career. She understands that work has to take priority sometimes, and that has always helped. She enjoys attending business and social events, sometimes more than me, bringing the work and life together. I feel fortunate to have a great family. That makes life a lot easier!

This interview was previously published in the Dubuque BizTimes magazine.

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